China's Role in Africa's Energy Transition: a Critical Review of its Intensity, Institutions, and Impacts
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China is playing an ever important role in Africa's energy transition, mainly via its massive investment and loans on various energy infrastructure projects ranging from extractive activities in oil and gas industries, power generation facilities including both traditional and renewable energy sources, and transmission and distribution networks. These activities have generated profound economic, social and environmental impacts to the recipient countries and local communities, which has attracted tremendous academic interests in the past decade. In this critical review, the focus has been given to the power generation sector to understand implications of Chinese activities on African countries’ energy development pathways. Three groups of studies are reviewed in specific, which focusing on the estimation of Chinese activities in the Sub-Sahara region, the governance structure of development finance and overseas energy activities in China, and the economic, social and environmental impacts of Chinese projects. I argue that a new research agenda is needed to further develop a precise estimation regarding the size and trend of Chinese activities in the power generation sector in the SSA region, and to unpack the complex actor network and power relations among Chinese actors and with recipient countries. Future researches should also establish more robust evidence regarding the impacts of Chinese activities on energy sector development, economic growth at national level, and local environmental and social benefits at the local level. A more standardised assessment criteria is also required to evaluate these impacts due to the unique characters of Chinese activities compared to traditional OECD practices.